FIVE PARAGRAPH ESSAY FORMAT
N. Lund/Oxford Tutorials
A. Grabs the reader's attention. It should have a "hook": a fairly brief, thought-provoking sentence
(assertion, question, quotation, humor) to catch and focus your reader's interest. For example:
1. “Shakespeare never grows old. Why is that?” (NL)
2. “Where were you when America lost her soul?” (NL)
3. “Old books are more fun than a barrel full of monkeys.” (NL)
4. “Never let schooling interfere with your education” (M. Twain)
5. “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire” (W. B. Yeats)
6. ”The man that hath no music in himself… is fit for treasons”
(Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice)
7. “War is horrible, but slavery is worse” (W. Churchill).
8. “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something,
sometime in your life” (W. Churchill)
9. “There are no boring subjects, only disinterested minds” (GK)
10. “Don’t let worry kill you—let the Church help!”
B. Gives brief background on your topic
C. Begins or ends with the thesis statement (SEE: “Writing the Thesis Statement”)
BODY: MIDDLE PARAGRAPHS
A. Develops, expands, and/or supports the thesis statement
B. Includes a topic sentence for each paragraph (one main idea)
C. Includes supporting details which reinforce the topic sentence.
1. Generally 3-5 sentences are necessary per paragraph.
2. Details may include reasons, examples, stories, statistics
3. Indent the first sentence of every paragraph
A. Restates the thesis or sums up the argument.
B. Tells the reader what you think is most important. This may be a personal
response; it must be focused and brief.
C. Never introduce new information in the conclusion.
HOW TO GET STARTED:
A. Identify your topic (usually provided by your tutor or the test).
B. Write your opinion (conclusion, judgment) about the topic. This will become your thesis statement.
You will use it in your introductory paragraph.
C. Write three or four reasons why you hold that position. You will use these in your middle paragraphs.
D. Look for transitional words and phrases to introduce and connect the middle paragraphs.
See below: “Types and examples of transitions.”
WRITING YOUR THESIS STATEMENT:
A. Definition of a "thesis statement":
A thesis statement is a proposition to be defended or proved. It is an assertion about what the author thinks to be true or false. It is the writer's judgment about something (a topic) that could be debated. It requires the writer to "take sides" on an issue, and to support that position. Unless the thesis is supported by reasons, it is just an expression of one's opinion. Do not use first person pronouns ("I" or "my"). Use the third person ("it is;" "there is," “there are,” etc.) for a stronger, more confident and objective approach.
B. Difference between "topic" and "thesis."
A topic is anything you can think or write about, a subject for study or discussion. Notice the difference between the following topics (general subjects), and thesis statements which are based upon them (specific assertions):
C. Examples of topics and thesis statements
1. TOPIC # 1: Study of Shakespeare
a. Shakespeare expresses timeless truths which are the foundation of democracy
and absolutely essential for a good education
b. Shakespeare is biased and should not be considered any more important than
any other kind of literature.
c. Shakespeare is so antiquated that he isn't worth any further study or attention.
2. TOPIC # 2: Global Warming
a. Global warming is a natural and recurring phenomenon which humans cannot
significantly influence or change.
b. Global warming is an unprecedented event which is caused by humans, and
which requires a human solution.
c. Global warming is part of a new pagan religion which worships the ‘mother earth.’
3. TOPIC # 3: Home schooling
a. Home schooling is a legitimate and effective way of preparing students for
responsible citizenship and productive careers.
b. Home schooling is an unconstitutional attempt to avoid state-sponsored education.
c. Home schooling is part of a conspiracy by ring-wing fundamentalists to overthrow
the American government.
D. Relationship between a topic and a thesis:
The topic gives you the subject you are going to write about. Your thesis
will state where you stand (your own judgment, opinion, conclusion) about that
E. How to write a thesis statement:
Here's how to write your thesis statement. Use the topic as your subject. Finish the sentence by stating your view or assertions about that topic. Your thesis may be expressed in more than one sentence. It informs the reader of your position on an issue, and alerts them of what to expect in your essay. Your thesis should express your conclusion, judgment or interpretation as simply and clearly as possible. In the remaining paragraphs of your essay you will attempt to support that thesis with specific, relevant and sufficient evidence. That evidence may include summaries, paraphrases, and quotations from the text under consideration.
ORGANIZING YOUR TRANSITIONS:
A. Arrange paragraphs so that the content of one leads logically to the next. The transition may highlight
a relationship that already exists by summarizing the previous paragraph and suggesting something
of the content of the next paragraph.
B. A transition between paragraphs can be a word or two ("thus, however, for example, similarly"), a
phrase (“as the reader may have noticed”), or a sentence (“Obviously, there is something wrong”).
C. Transitions can be at the end of the first paragraph, at the beginning of the second paragraph, or in
TYPES AND EXAMPLES OF TRANSITIONS:
A. Similarity: "also, in the same way, just as ... so too, likewise, similarly"
B. Exception/Contrast: "but, however, in spite of, on the one hand ... on the other hand, nevertheless,
nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still, yet"
C. Sequence/Order: "first, second, third, ... next, then, finally"
D. Time: "after, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now,
recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then"
E. Example: "for example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate"
F. Emphasis: "even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly"
G. Place/Position: "above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there"
H. Cause and Effect: "accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus"
I. Additional Support or Evidence: "additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important,
further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then"
J. Conclusion/Summary: "finally, in a word, in brief, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis,
on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, in summary"
EXAMPLE OF A FIVE-PARAGRAPH ESSAY:
Why Study Shakespeare?
Norman J. Lund
Shakespeare never grows old. Why is that? It’s because he expresses timeless truths with unparalleled literary excellence. The study of Shakespeare is essential for a good education.
The first reason to study Shakespeare is to develop one’s appreciation for great literature. Shakespeare’s genius is evident, not only in his sonnets and other poems, but in some three dozen plays. His characters are vivid and his plots compelling. Once you’ve met them, who can ever forget Hamlet or Lady Macbeth—his grief, or her guilt—or Beatrice and Benedick, and their humorous banter? It’s not an accident that Shakespeare is the most-quoted author in the English language. He also confers a rich vocabulary. The prestigious Oxford English Dictionary estimates that Shakespeare “coined” about 1700 words. What better way to develop an appreciation for great literature than by studying the best?
Clearly, there is an enduring value in Shakespeare. In addition to his literary gifts, Shakespeare reveals deep spiritual insights. The plays of Shakespeare rest upon and express a Biblical worldview. Although he tapped many sources for inspiration, his primary source was Scripture. One researcher has documented over 1,300 Biblical references in Shakespeare, an average of about forty per play. Shakespeare wrote from a God-centered, redemptive perspective. The great Biblical themes are all there.
Given the magnitude of his contribution, it is no wonder that scholars like E. D. Hirsch have insisted on the importance of reading Shakespeare to develop a basic, “cultural literacy.” Shakespeare provides a wonderful ‘bridge’ for discussing the great questions of life, and for rediscovering the richness in Western civilization.
The works of Shakespeare constitute a rich literary, spiritual and cultural treasure, just waiting for discovery. Students of Shakespeare are rewarded for their efforts. But that’s a bonus. It’s like getting paid to play.
Notes on format and transitions compiled and edited from: